Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Standing Tall

There was no question that the Bucs had the utmost respect for LB Derrick Brooks when they released him on Wednesday; the unfailingly professional Brooks made it clear on Friday that he respects the team's decision, too

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Derrick Brooks is looking into options both in and out of the game of football

In the 13 years, 10 months and three days that Derrick Brooks spent as a player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he witnessed and was impacted by thousands of decisions by team management. Obviously that included countless roster moves, players added and - here's the part that can get emotional - players cut.

As a member of the team, and before too long a primary leader of that team, Brooks chose to handle each of those decisions the same way.

"At the end of the day I've always said that when our owners and our leaders make decisions, it doesn't matter what you feel or think at the end of the day, they make a decision," he said. "I've always respected change and I do that today."

Today in this case was just two short days after the Buccaneers latest roster decisions. Forty-eight short hours to digest a change he hadn't seen coming. Two days to decide how to handle a cut deeper than all those he had rolled with for nearly 14 years at the two One Buccaneer Places.

On Wednesday, the Buccaneers released Brooks, along with fellow veterans Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and Cato June.

This time, the man released was the most decorated and accomplished player in team history, most likely the greatest Buccaneer ever. More importantly, it was him.

That changes everything, doesn't it? This isn't the organization making a change and asking you to guide your teammates through it, like so many times before. This is the organization saying – while making sure to acknowledge the greatness of your career and to treat you with the utmost respect – that it was moving in a new direction, one that did not include you. That might make you want to lash out, wouldn't it?

No, it would not. Not when you're Derrick Brooks.

When Brooks says he cares for the happiness of every member of the Buccaneers' organization, from the seasonal interns up to the department heads, he means it. And when he says he respects the right of team management to make any and all decisions regarding the future of the team, he means it. He proved that on Friday, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

"Every decision, I respect throughout my time here," said Brooks. "You don't necessarily have to agree or disagree. I think the bottom line is that as a human being you respect it. Everybody has a picture that they want painted their own particular way, but when the picture's not painted your way you don't kick and scream. You be a man about it.

"The process was not what I expected but at the same time I can look Coach [Raheem] Morris, look our owners and look Mark [Dominik] in the eye and shake their hands as a grown man and as a professional and support them in the direction that they want to go. Fourteen years, you just don't throw away. There's obviously still going to be ties here. That's never going to leave, but at the same time the competitive side of you, you just open the door and see what God has for you next."

Brooks has always been deeply spiritual, and steadied in everything he does by his faith. It was no accident that he began and ended his meeting with the media at Buccaneers headquarters on Friday with essentially the same thought.

"I just look forward to whatever doors God is going to open to me next; I'll approach it like I do everything else: with prayer, perspective and purpose," he said in his opening statement, before describing in his conclusion what that meant to him.

"I'm going to be a leader in this situation just like I have in all my challenges. I look at it with 'The Three Ps,' man: prayer, perspective and purpose. That's how I look at this situation and see where God takes me next. I feel a bigger situation than myself, with people outside of this sports arena and some of the struggles that my fellow citizens are going through. I want to be someone that they can look to and say, 'Hey, looking at him and how he carries himself gives me motivation to keep going and keep moving forward.' And that's what I'll do."

But will he play on, in a different uniform for the first time since 1995? That's a possibility, and if he does so he doesn't think he'd have a problem with the transformation.

"I'd say if an opportunity presented itself and it's something I'm going to decide to do, then I'm going to move forward with all my energy to do," said Brooks. "I haven't evaluated all of the options. I've only looked at a couple things, in terms of what my next move is going to be. If I decide to play again then, yeah, I am going to look forward to helping that team win a championship."

For now, his agent will filter any contact from other teams through to him. Brooks has been approached by others outside of the game with opportunities that might interest him. And of course he's already active in many off-the-field ventures and initiatives as it is. That was his plan all along, because even if he moves on to another team he knows his playing days will eventually end.

"I live every day to its fullest," he said. "My single-minded approach as always is to prepare yourself for the day without football. Whether it be decisions like this or injury, I've well rounded myself to go in a number of directions and now I just step back and look at it."

He is, of course, a Buccaneer icon, even if he is not officially a Buccaneers player on this morning. His smile at the podium on Friday and his utter lack of bitterness seem to indicate that the team will always remain important to him, though that topic wasn't specifically addressed on Friday. What is certain is that the Bay area is not losing Derrick Brooks.

"I'm always here," he said. "My approach as a human being is always about relationships first and those never leave. The things that I've set in place here that God has allowed have nothing to do with football. That's why I say it'll always be here and Tampa will always be my home."

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